When I told the Ur-Guru what I was planning to write about today, his response was: “Seagate sure is getting a lot of exposure through you. 🙂 Hate to think what you’d write and how much if they sent you a full 100TB RAID rack.”
I’d hate to think where I’d put a 100 TB RAID rack, myself. Never mind what I’d do with it. I’m already running out of room for external drives, and I had to buy a new USB hub to keep them all connected and powered. I’m the wrong blogger for enterprise-level hardware and software, and most of my readers—the ones who send feedback, anyway—wouldn’t know what to do with it, either.
But a Maxtor Shared Storage II network drive was something I did know what to do with, so when Jay Pechek (that’s pronounced like “paycheck,” for those who care) of Seagate offered me one back in 2006, I jumped at it. And it worked perfectly for a year, whereupon it died rather dramatically. (You can read all about it in my “Sounds You Never Want to Hear” post from 9/21/07.)
Jay sent me a new Maxtor Shared Storage II drive (and a couple of OneTouch 4 drives for good measure) and I sent the dead one back to him so he could have the engineers see whether they could get my data back.
The inside of the MSS-II is actually two 500GB drives, and you have two options for formatting them: “spanning,” which gives you a 1 TB drive, and “mirroring,” which gives you a 500 GB drive in duplicate. I had set the old MSS-II to mirror, because I thought the extra protection against drive failure was more important than the extra storage space, and while you can back the MSS-II up onto a USB drive, I didn’t have a USB drive big enough to back it up.
It turned out I’d made a good decision, since one of those drives did die, and the purpose of using RAID (which is what “spanning” and “mirroring” really are) is to protect against physical failure of the disk.
Except there was a little problem, notably the complete impossibility of opening up the MSS-II in order to switch the drives around. What’s supposed to happen when the first drive fails is an automatic fail-over to the second drive and a few warning lights to let you know that one of your drives isn’t working. But before that can happen, the software that controls the boot sequence of the drives has to get a signal that the drive is dead, and it couldn’t get any signal at all from the drive. (That’s why it was making those nasty clicking noises.) So it didn’t work.
Because of that, and because I now had a 500 GB OneTouch 4 drive I could use to back up the new MSS-II, I have set the new MSS-II to span. And this was a good thing, too, because the Seagate lab was able to retrieve my data from one of the drives. Jay shipped it back to me as a shared folders backup file on a 750 GB OneTouch 4 Basic, which is black plastic all over instead of black plastic with brushed aluminum.
My first attempt at restoring the data didn’t get anywhere, because the MSS-II wouldn’t recognize the drive, even though it was properly formatted. A second attempt, made with some coaching from Jay, worked perfectly. It seems that even though the administration interface for the MSS-II has an equivalent to the Windows “Safely remove hardware” button, you have to power it down and restart it before it will recognize a new USB drive.
Anyway, once we’d done that, I clicked the “Shared Folder Backup” button, selected “restore,” and then chose the backup set I wanted. (In this case there was only one, which Jay had called “BackupBlog.”) I then had the choice to restore the items to their original locations or to a temporary folder in the “public” share on the drive. (Each computer connected to the MSS-II has its own “share,” which is accessible only to that computer, but all of them can use the “public” share.) I chose the temporary folder, and away we went.
Jay advised me to close the web-admin interface for the MSS-II and just wait until the light on the OneTouch Basic stopped blinking, because copying almost 350 GB of data takes a long time, even over a high-speed USB connection, because shared folder backups are compressed and each file has to be, as it were, re-inflated, before it’s copied.
It was finished by the next day, though, so I was able to start consolidating the data. The fastest part was moving things that belonged in the “Public” folder into their proper places. As it happened, I’d had many of those things backed up elsewhere, but there were a few I was missing. I filled in the blanks and deleted the duplicates.
Restoring data to the different private shares is more time-consuming, because that data has to be copied over the network even though it’s all staying on the same physical drive. (Jay may be able to explain why this is; I can’t.) In addition to that, I have to go to my housemate’s computer to copy data back into her share, and start up Star, my more-portable laptop, to copy data back into her share. And while the MSS-II is capable of transferring data at 1000 kbps, my router can only do 100 kbps—and Star’s wireless card can only manage 11kbps. That’s considerably slower than USB 2.0 hi-speed, which does about 360 kbps.
To make the job more finicky yet, unless I want to keep everything in a lump called “restored,” I have to copy files into their appropriate locations and decide whether I want to use the restored version (dating back to August of this year) or the current version. I’m discovering that as time goes on, my enthusiasm for tidily consolidating all of this data decreases, and I can see why automatic “de-duplication” is such a selling point in enterprise backup solutions.
On the positive side, doing the consolidating frees up space and means that I only have to look in one place if I need to restore a file. On the negative side, it takes a lot of time, and because there’s still a ton of room left on the MSS-II, I don’t have to do it. I probably will, though, even if I don’t do it right now, because I tend to be compulsively tidy about my data and file folder structures.
Besides, I now have a spare OneTouch drive, but I can’t convert the original OneTouch Plus (Mama Bear) for use as a Windows drive until I’ve restored all the data that was backed up there and go through this consolidation process again. Not that I’m really sure what I’m going to use Mama Bear for, but it makes sense to use the Basic drive to back up the MSS-II, because of its larger capacity.
So I’d probably better stop writing and get back to consolidating my data.